Summer seems a long time ago as rain has fallen persistently now for several weeks. I am already fantasizing about halcyon days to come and possible future trips and my mind floats back again and again to the bliss of Alaçatı. I have been to some lovely places but this Aegean town on the Izmir Province is truly magical. It’s not the sleepy fishing community I imagine it once was, it’s achingly hip and the destination of choice for the Turkish elite, and those in the know – but don’t let this put you off. It is popular, and it may be busy in season, but it is so utterly charming and brimming with style that even the crowds cannot spoil it.
The Greek heritage is evident; the buildings are beautiful - bright white limestone with woodwork painted in a plethora of edible colours. The cobbled streets are crammed with hotels, restaurants, expensive shops and galleries. One of these hotels, right in the heart of old Alaçatı is Beyevi. This small hotel is rustic and simple, and is split between two buildings with a walled courtyard in between. The proximity of Beyevi to the lovely streets is wonderful. The atmosphere is comfortable and suits relaxation. No music pollutes the air and pool-side napping is the order of the day for the majority of guests.
The rooms are bijou and simple, with raw stone walls and a muted colour palette, and delicately sized bathrooms. The hotel pool nestled in the courtyard is surrounded with loungers - which were entirely British occupied when we were there! A plethora of plants in pots decorate the poolside along with some artificial petaled relations; extremely long-winged hover flies refreshed themselves in the pool over-looked by two carved stone frogs.
The place is homely, and breakfast is a lovely spread of traditional Turkish fare - round, sesame-seeded simit bread, with honey, cucumber, tomatoes, olives, fruits, eggs, and more. You are left well set-up for a day of exploring.
Stepping out of the hotel you are plunged straight into the thick of it….restaurants spill out onto the cobbled lanes and provide excellent viewing spots for admiring the passing tourists in their best holiday attire.
The Saturday market is not to be missed….potatoes, geometrically arranged and lovingly placed in rows like precious stones, pembe (pink) tomatoes, perfectly round emerald peppers, oval yellow courgettes with their flowers folded up like resting butterflies, stunning aubergines all immaculately displayed with justified pride, bunches of luscious looking salad leaves and bundles of herbs, many of which I had little knowledge of ever having seen or eaten…laid out like a perfect illustration of a market.
The fish market, or more accurately fish auction, is an open air space with a huge marble slab on which the fish are grouped together in lots. It’s not large and is nestled amongst all the vegetable stalls. The man points his fish stick at a pile and the bidding starts. It’s fascinating. I consider myself pretty well food educated, but the fish on display were baffling, including some bright red, spiky specimens with surprisingly intelligent looking faces!
I wriggled my way through the bystanders and wannabe fish purchasers, and found a space at the edge of the marble table, alongside the local men debating the fish on offer. Fish were being shovelled into plastic carrier bags by the man with a huge ice trowel. The man next to me clearly sensed my obvious interest in the huge, deep purple creatures half wrapped in wet newspaper in front of me. He reached in and picked one up - it wriggled wildly and flapped it’s tail at me. They were truly ugly and beautiful all at once. Huge liquid eyes stared out at their prospective cooks. A second attempt at scaring me with the creature made it let out a squeak. Does a lobster squeak underwater? If it does does anyone hear it? The market was winding up and the spectacle of the auction which has taken place there for years was truly wonderful.
Alaçatı was a dream break. It is an intensely beautiful location with so much on offer. The beaches nearby were gorgeous. The windsurfing provides a wonderful activity to watch if you don’t fancy trying it. The flowers, food, buildings and ambiance are make it somewhere that I certainly want to re-visit. The sooner the better!